MTD annexes subdivisions but delays tax increase
CHAMPAIGN — Four large subdivisions were annexed into the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District Wednesday, but the MTD board voted to delay the annexations so that residents won't be paying the corresponding property tax increases until the spring of 2016.
MTD board members unanimously approved the annexations of the Boulder Ridge and Sawgrass subdivisions in Champaign, the Stone Creek subdivision in Urbana and the Lake Park subdivision south of Champaign, but added that they didn't want the paperwork filed with the county clerk until July 1. That means residents of the areas can begin to receive service this fall but won't pay for it with higher property taxes for almost two years.
Together, the subdivisions include more than 600 acres of property brought into the transit district, whose property tax rate this year is nearly 32 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
Although the MTD has not calculated how much the annexations would yield in tax revenue collectively, staff members at a public hearing estimated earlier this month that the owner of a $300,000 home in Stone Creek would pay about $300 more in taxes once it is in the mass transit district. A public hearing earlier this month about the Stone Creek annexation attracted more than two dozen people opposed to the idea,
But MTD officials have repeatedly cited their intergovernmental agreement with Urbana, Champaign and Savoy, which states that once subdivisions are annexed into the municipalities, they have to be brought into the MTD as well.
Board member Linda Bauer of Urbana made the suggestion to delay filing the annexation ordinances.
"It did strike me that people in Urbana, for instance, are facing a very large — 10 percent — property tax increase this year, so the Stone Creek folks would be looking at a bigger tax bill than normal," she said. "So one thing that I was thinking of is that perhaps we could, especially for the Stone Creek folks, file on a delayed basis so that they wouldn't be looking at that tax bill until 2016."
"If we did this before July 1," explained MTD board chairman Don Uchtmann, "they would be getting their tax bills ... next June, which would include this increase. But if we file this on or after the first of July, they would not get the higher tax bills until May or June of 2016."
Bauer noted "that everything you do, there are some people who are happy and some who are not. I think we're doing the right thing here, listening."
Although Lake Park and the Champaign subdivisions aren't getting the big property tax increases this year that Stone Creek did, she said she thought that the uniform delay was justified.
"I think the idea was to treat everybody in this round of annexations the same," Bauer said.
"To have filed this a couple of days before the (June 30) deadline, I think, would have been kind of a slap in the face to people who already were going to have to reach deeper into their pockets," Uchtmann said. "Urbana has had that terrible issue with Carle (property tax exemptions) and how that has played out with increased taxes. If we can help a little bit with the delay for the Stone Creek folks, I think that would be good. And then do we carve them out separately and leave the other two? It just seems best to do them all the same."
Uchtmann added that the MTD board voted last July to annex the Prairie Meadows subdivision in Savoy, meaning the tax bills for residents there also wouldn't increase for almost two years.
"Maybe that helps ease this transition a bit," he said.
MTD director Bill Volk, who was attending his last board meeting Wednesday after 40 years with the district, said residents of the annexed areas would be eligible for Americans with Disabilities Act service and half-fare cab service immediately, and some limited new route service this fall.
No residents of the affected subdivisions attended Wednesday's board meeting.
Also Wednesday, board members:
— Approved a $43.7 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
— Tentatively approved a $254,700 contract with Duce Constriction Co., pending the OK of the Illinois Department of Transportation, for the rehabilitation of the Amtrak platform at the 15-year-old Illinois Terminal in downtown Champaign. The concrete platform is cracking and was damaged at one time by a train, Volk said. The work could take place later this year, he said.
— Learned that ridership for the fiscal year ending June 30 has set another record, and cleared the 13 million mark for the first time. The MTD carried just over 12 million riders in the last fiscal year and will beat that by more than 1.2 million passengers this year, Volk said. The transit system has set monthly records for 27 of the last 28 months.
— Said that a public open house honoring Volk upon his retirement would be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor of the Illinois Terminal.